This book was my winter companion two winters ago and I have been wanting to write something about it ever since … especially given that I frequently mention it to people in conversation. For years I’ve carried a wish for a good book about chemistry … something passionate and inspiring. I am interested in chemistry in a practical way because it is all around me … in soils, in earth construction, in burning of rocket stoves, in wood finishes. But all of my past attempts to relate to chemistry have failed. I first read about Gerald Pollack and The Fourth Phase of Water a review by Charles Eisenstein. This book has definitely answered my wish, it was a joy to read … though I remain even hungrier for understanding … I look forward to many more books like this (if you know of any please leave a comment and let me know about them).
The book, as its title implies, discusses a fourth phase of water, beyond liquid, solid and vapor. It is a phase that comes about when water is in touch with hydrophilic (water loving) surfaces. Most of our body is made up of hydrophilic surfaces. It is a well known piece of trivia that our bodies are 70% water, but less well known that we are 99% water molecules … so this research has far reaching implications.
When water comes in contact with a hydrophilic surface it rearranges itself into a liquid crystal like structure – somewhere between liquid and solid. This layer is substantial, it can extend millions of molecules away from the hydrophilic surface. In the book this is called Extraction Zone water or EZ water. It is named this way because molecules organize in a very tight atomic lattice that, as it forms, pushes out contaminants and once it is formed, prevents contaminants from pentetrating it. Another feature of EZ water is charge separation … there is a measurable potential difference between the EZ water and the surrounding liquid water. A third feature is a drastic changes in the PH gradiant from the hydrophilic surface, through the EZ water and the surround liquid water.
The book offers many explanations to water behavior in nature: how electrical charge forms in our bodies, boiling, bouyancy, droplets and bubbles (they are related!), why warm water freezes faster than cold water, why concrete needs to be watered when it sets (it doesn’t dry, the water doesn’t ‘leave’ it, the water changes phase and locks the concrete together!), physical joints (what are the liquid properties that prevent bones from rubbing up against each other), why two panes of glass with water in between them resist being pulled apart but can slide apart, why ice can be sticky and slippery, electric current in nerves, blood flow (challenging the myth that the heart is a pump, it is too small relative to the size of the blood vessels in our body to be able to pressurize it, demonstrating that it doesn’t need to, because flow is generated in the blood vessels themselves which are hydrophilic tubes … so the heart only gives it direction!), viscosity in vodka … and so much more (the author admits that he wanted to share even more but was limited by editing considerations).
The book begins with a promise that to understand it one only needs to understasnd that positive and negative charges attract. It lives up to that promise. You can read the whole book and understand the science described in it with just that understanding, basic logic and arithmetic and without any mathematical formula. This, in its own right is an inspiring achievement. It demonstrates that science can be taught in a light an inspiring way, that science can be a commons, accessible to everyone, that you don’t need to have advanced academic degrees to enjoy and benefit from science.
As I was joyfully reading the book I thought back to science that I was taught in school (I was also taught some in university but I didn’t get it) and how the emphasis was on mathematic formulas and calculations and pointless memorization of bits of information. It was lifeless and uninspiring … complex formulas and calculations were an obstacle, a barrier … and I was good at math and algebra and geomtery … I can’t imagine what it was like for students who were not as comfortable with math.
Looking back at the science education I received, I wonder if that was because my teachers themselves didn’t really understand (I don’t blame them personally, I am suggesting that understanding was not yet available to them) the phenomena they were trying to teach. I feel that the formulaic science was a cover up … and this has implications beyond teaching. The explanations offered in the book are often simple, simpler then established explanations, sometimes even contradicting and undermining well established complex theories (one prominent example is Einstein’s theory of Brownian motion). The book also opens up the door to things that have been viciously rejected by mainstream scientific thought … water memory is a prominent example: the structure of the EZ water responds to the characeristics of the hydrophilic surface like a template.
In the first part of the book the author gives some historical background to the current state of water-related research. He shows how socio-political considerations effected and undermined research in the field of water. These statements have potentially far reaching implications to the current state of science beyond the field of water.
He also discusses and challenges the view that science has come so far that it is almost “complete” in its ability to understand, predict and manipulate nature (I also got this impression when I was growing up. I recall a promise that some kind of Grand Unification Theory was supposedly just around the corner … and 25 years on it seems that there are more unknowns than knowns in science … which to me feels like a sensible balance). As a result, science has become peripheral … scientific research is focused on niche subjects which are considered mere extensions of established core understandings. But, the author suggests, there is still much to do in the fundamentals of science itself and that questioning basic assumptions should be inherent to scientific research (there are a bunch of wildly divergent theories, but we still don’t know how water molecules organize into liquid water!).
The research in this book has so many applications that could drastically effect our lives: passive (flow based) filters based on exclusion zone properties, imagine photovoltaic panels that are made of water instead of silicon, there are medical applications
The book was a delightful read. Science always appealed to me, but I was repelled by the way it was introduced to me. Reading this was educative, inspiring and a healing experience.